Articles

Shabazz Napier

PG Connecticut
6’1” 170 lbs 7/14/91

The roller coaster ride of Shabazz Napier's draft stock during his sophomore year was a perfect reflection of UConn's up-and-down season. In November, the Preseason All Big-East candidate helped guide the Huskies to a 6-1 record while notching just the ninth triple-double in Connecticut history in an early-season win over Coppin State. He scored 20+ points in five of those games while promising freshman Ryan Boatwright sat due to eligiblity issues, and it appeared that with Napier at the helm, UConn was in good hands. But when Boatwright returned, Napier appeared to gradually struggle with his role on the team, and by February, the once 4th-ranked Huskies were mired in a terrible slump they'd never really come out of. By the end of the season, the defending champs were making headlines for all the wrong reasons, and now Napier's status as a future 1st-Round pick would appear to be questionable.

 

Running the show for a team loaded with NBA talent, Napier had to be bursting with confidence after those early-season triumphs. Displaying an unconscious stroke from beyond the arc, Shabazz had already hit 20 three's through the first seven games. The addition of Boatwright to the lineup, however, took the ball out of Napier's hands a lot, and he began to stand around on offense, far from the hoop. For a player armed with such a lethal crossover and bullet-like passing precision, it has to be troubling to NBA scouts that Napier didn't attack defenses more often, since he can penetrate with the best of them. A solid floater in the lane gives him a good enough mid-range game, but he needs to work on developing an actual mid-range jumper. He also has a tendency to get trapped underneath the rim after dribble-drives, at which point he resorts to sloppy jump-passes that usually end up being turnovers.

 

While he can at times turn games around with his aggressive defense, Napier needs to do a better job getting his hands up to challenge shots. UConn was one of the worst teams in the NCAA in '11-12 when it came to allowing 3's. This was in some part due to the design of a defense that tried to funnel the action towards shot-blocking presence Andre Drummond, forcing teams to kick it back outside and beat UConn from the perimeter. But far too often, Napier showed a bad habit of closing out with his hands down. Luckily for him, this should be an easily-correctable flaw in an otherwise solid defensive package, as he otherwise possesses every defensive attribute you could ask for in a 6'1'' guard.

 

Assuming Napier returns to UConn, he'll have every opportunity to put last year's chaotic season behind him and should solidify himself as at least a First Round draft selection in 2013. He clearly wants to be "the man" for this team, and he has a ton of heart and leadership, which the Huskies need badly. If he can develop a more dependable jumper from inside the arc and cut back on his turnovers, he could possibly earn lottery consideration a la Kemba Walker.

 

Rank                   116th Overall (22nd PG)

Projection            Undrafted

Strengths            Vision

                          3PT range

Weaknesses      Shooting efficiency

                          Defense